'I am terrified' — 'I am innocent': Key moments from Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh's testimony
Ford says she is '100 per cent' certain Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her; Supreme Court nominee denies it
Christine Blasey Ford said she was "terrified" to be speaking at a hearing before the U.S. Senate judiciary committee on Thursday but felt it was her "civic duty" to come forward.
The 51-year-old psychology professor's decades-old allegations about being sexually assaulted by a young Brett Kavanaugh have gripped Washington and sent the Supreme Court nominee's approval process into a tailspin after they were first published in the Washington Post over 10 days ago.
Ford alleges that a drunken, 17-year-old Kavanaugh forced her down on a bed, groped her and tried to take off her clothes during a high school gathering in the summer of 1982. She was 15 at the time.
Two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, have since publicly made sexual misconduct claims against the U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
Kavanaugh has denied all allegations.
Here some key moments from more than eight hours of testimony on Thursday:
Christine Blasey Ford's testimony
I thought Brett was going to accidently kill me.
Ford started her testimony with her voice breaking, visibly nervous to be speaking. She read from an opening statement that ran just under 20 minutes.
"I am here today not because I want to be — I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school," she said.
She outlined her experience growing up in an affluent Maryland suburb in the late '70s and '80s, explaining that students at her all-girls school often socialized with students at the local all-boys schools, at parties, as well as at the area's country clubs.
Watch Ford's full opening statement:
It was in this setting, she said, where she met Brett Kavanaugh, "the boy who sexually assaulted me." The two didn't know each other well, she said, but they attended a number of the same parties.
That included one "small gathering" in the summer of 1982 where she said the assault took place. She admitted she had forgotten a few of the details, like how she arrived, the location of the gathering, and how she got home.
After drinking one beer, she said she went upstairs to use the restroom and was instead "pushed from behind" into a bedroom across the hall. Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, entered the room and locked the door behind them, she said.
She said she was pushed onto the bed and groped by a "very inebriated" Kavanaugh, who tried to remove her clothes, but struggled, in part due to the one-piece bathing suit she was wearing beneath her clothing.
Ford describes how the alleged assault unfolded:
"I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from yelling. This is what terrified me the most and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe and I thought Brett was going to accidently kill me."
Ford said she eventually was able to get up and run across the hall to the bathroom, waiting until the two boys went downstairs before leaving.
Ford also said she didn't tell her parents of the incident and very few friends over the years. Specific details were never shared until May 2012, when she spoke of them during couples therapy.
Ford describes the support and threats she's received since going public with her allegation:
'Absolutely not' a case of mistaken identity
Ford was asked twice if she could be mistaken about Kavanaugh's identity, with both questions coming from Democratic senators on the panel.
"So this could not be a case of mistaken identity?" the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, asked at one point.
Ford replied: "Absolutely not"
Later, when asked a similar question about her "degree" of certainty that it was a young Kavanaugh who assaulted her, Ford leaned into her microphone and responded simply: "100 per cent."
Ford tells committee there's no chance she misidentified her attacker:
In her opening statement, Ford said she remembered Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, "drunkenly laughing" during the alleged assault.
But she returned to that point later, when responding to a question from Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who asked for her strongest memory of the incident.
"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter," said Ford, who is a research psychologist and professor at Palo Alto University. "The uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense."
She also recalled being underneath one of them while both laughed. "Two friends having a really good time with one another."
Ford tells Sen. Patrick Leahy that it's the sound of her attackers' laughter that sticks in her memory the most:
Disjointed questioning in 5-minute increments
The all-male Republican members of the panel hired Rachel Mitchell, a Phoenix-based sex crimes prosecutor, to conduct their questioning, wanting to avoid the optics of having 11 men grill a woman about sexual assault. (Of the 10 Democrats on the committee, four are women.)
Each senator on the committee was allotted five minutes to question Ford, with the Republican senators all deferring to Mitchell. Mitchell's time played out like a cross-examination-style interview — but in short, disjointed bursts interrupted by the windows given to Democratic senators.
Over the course of the hearing, Mitchell questioned Ford about her fear of flying, her decision to take a polygraph test and gaps in her memory.
Toward the end of Ford's testimony, Mitchell readily admitted that the back-and-forth arc of questioning wasn't the ideal way to elicit "memory" and "truth" from trauma survivors.
"Would you believe me if I told you that there's no study that says that this setting, in five-minute increments, is the best way to do that?" she asked Ford.
Really unfortunate that the factual development is being truncated and interrupted by the five-minute rule; not helpful for senators trying to get to the truth or the public seeking to understand—@RuthMarcus
Grassley's five-minute limit clearly not working for Republicans so far. The GOP's hand-picked prosecutor didn't even get through introductory questions during the first session.—@sppeoples
Brett Kavanaugh's testimony
There has been a frenzy to come up with something — anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious — that will block a vote on my nomination.
Kavanaugh's blistering opening statement was a marked departure from Ford's subdued comments, with the Supreme Court nominee delivering an incensed denial of the allegations, saying he's "never sexually assaulted anyone — not in high school, not in college, not ever."
Kavanaugh — who was combative at times and tearful at others — argued that the 10-day delay between the emergence of the allegations and Thursday's hearing had "totally and permanently" destroyed his family and his reputation.
"There has been a frenzy to come up with something — anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious — that will block a vote on my nomination. These are last-minute smears, pure and simple," he said.
Kavanaugh delivers a fiery and emotional, 44-minute opening statement:
He later called his confirmation process a "national disgrace."
Kavanaugh said he was not questioning that Ford may have been assaulted "by some person in some place at some time," but said he was "innocent of this charge."
The 53-year-old judge also outlined his own recollection of his teenage years, saying he was largely focused on academics, sports, church and service.
Fiery exchange over FBI probe
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin pushed for Kavanaugh to call for an FBI investigation into the charges made by "Dr. Ford and others," suggesting that the nomination process should be put on hold until such a probe is complete.
The demand led to an interjection from committee chair Sen. Chuck Grassley, who said he wouldn't suspend the hearing regardless of what Kavanaugh said.
Sen. Dick Durbin attempts to get Kavanaugh to commit to FBI investigation:
But Durbin didn't let up, asking Kavanaugh if he would want an FBI probe — a question the judge didn't directly answer.
"I welcome whatever the committee wants to do because I'm telling the truth," he responded. "I am innocent. I am innocent of this charge."
After a fiery back-and-forth, Kavanaugh said he had wanted a Senate hearing called immediately after the allegations first came to light, calling the demands for an FBI investigation a "phoney question," as the bureau doesn't reach conclusions and instead writes reports.
In the lead-up to this week's hearing, Ford, through her lawyers, had asked for an FBI investigation before testifying, saying it would ensure that "crucial facts" are assessed in a "non-partisan" manner.
Committee chairman Chuck Grassley accuses Democrats of trying to derail hearing:
Lindsey Graham lashes out
Immediately following Durbin's aggressive exchange with Kavanaugh, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham lashed out at his Democratic colleagues, calling Thursday's hearing "the most unethical sham" he's seen during his time in politics, and suggesting it was a blatant power grab.
"If you wanted an FBI investigation, you could have come to us," he said, angrily pointing across the aisle. "What you want to do is destroy this guy's life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020."
He added: "Boy, y'all want power. I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham."
An angry Lindsey Graham scolds Democrats on judiciary committee:
Graham also used his time to ask a few blunt questions.
"Are you a gang rapist?"
"No," Kavanaugh replied.
"Would you say you've been through hell?" Graham later asked.
"I've been through hell and then some," Kavanaugh responded.
Graham finished by addressing his Republican colleagues, urging them to vote for Kavanaugh, as he intends to.
Kavanaugh was also pushed about a number of terms that appeared in the pages of his high school yearbook, including "Beach Week Ralph Club" and "Boofed."
The first, Kavanaugh explained, refers to vomiting and the second, flatulence. "We were 16," he said.
The Supreme Court nominee was also asked about the term Renate Alumnius — and a subsequent New York Times story about it.
The Times reported that the phrase was a derogatory reference to Renate Schroeder, who was then a student at a nearby all-girls school.
Kavanaugh denies that yearbook comment was inside joke about sexual conquest:
The paper said the term was used by boys as a boast about their purported sexual conquests, but Kavanaugh argued it was intended to show affection and that "she was one of us."
"She was a great friends of ours. A bunch of us went to dances with her. She hung out with us as a group," he said. "The media circus that has been generated by this thought and reported that it referred to sex. It did not."
Kavanaugh then apologized that the term was "misinterpreted."
Drinking but no blackouts, Kavanaugh says
Early in his testimony, Kavanaugh discussed his drinking, dating back to high school.
"I liked beer. I still like beer," he said. "But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out, and I never sexually assaulted anyone."
Later, under questioning from two Democratic senators, Amy Klobuchar and Sheldon Whitehouse, he became more combative when asked about his drinking habits.
Kavanaugh turns questions about drinking back on senator:
At one point, Kavanaugh interrupted Whitehouse and lobbed a question back: "Do you like beer, senator? What do you like to drink?"
And when Klobuchar asked a question about whether Kavanaugh's drinking in high school and college ever caused him to forget anything, he again fired back.
"You're asking about blackout? I don't know. Have you?" he said. "I'm curious if you have."
Klobuchar's question came after she shared a story about her father's own struggle with alcoholism, including the fact her dad still attends Alcoholics Anonymous at age 90.
"I have no drinking problem, judge," the senator responded.
"Nor do I," Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh later apologized for his comments to Klobuchar.
'Is that you that he's talking about?'
Leading up to the hearing, there was speculation about whether a character in a book written by Kavanaugh's high school friend, Mark Judge, who Ford said was the friend egging Kavanaugh on during the assault, was modelled on Kavanaugh.
The character, Bart O'Kavanaugh, is described as a heavy drinker who in one scene vomits in a car and passes out on his way back from a party. The book also describes the annual start-of-summer partying ritual Judge and his private school friends took part in called Beach Week, a term that appears in the personal calendar that Kavanaugh kept during high school and released to the committee and read from at the hearing.
During Thursday's hearing, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy asked the Supreme Court nominee whether O'Kavanaugh was based on him.
"Are you the Bart O'Kavanugh that he's referring to?" he asked.
"You'd have to ask him," Kavanaugh shot back, referring to Judge.
"Well, I agree with you there," Leahy responded.
Kavanaugh adresses fictionalized account of high school years:
Kavanaugh said Judge wrote the book, Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, as part of his recovery from a "very serious drinking problem."
"I think he picked out names of friends of ours ... for characters in the book," he said.
Judge declined to testify before the committee, saying in a letter sent by his lawyer that he has "no memory" of the alleged incident Ford described and no further information to offer. During Thursday's hearing, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and other Democrats urged the committee to subpoena Judge.
Watch a highlight reel of key moments from Thursday's Senate hearing: